The Tall Spindle System: Apple Orchard Design For The Future

After years of experimentation, Terence Robinson believes he knows what a modern apple tree should look like.

It’s taller than people once thought it would be, 10 feet tall, but the trunk is really small and there are no scaffold branches to speak of. It sits along a three-wire trellis with other trees, spaced about three feet apart, in rows 11 feet apart, on an M.9 or similar dwarfing rootstock. It fruits early, bearing 15 to 20 apples in its second year.

Growers who plant trees like this have to learn a different training and pruning system, but if they plant the right varieties they should make money.

Robinson spoke during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO in Grand Rapids, Mich., last month. The Cornell University horticulturist explained in detail how to establish such an orchard, how to prune and train it and how much income it should provide.

He and his fellow researchers at Cornell, especially Stephen Hoying, began studying the issue intensely 10 years ago and now speak confidently about what they call “the tall spindle system.” [Read More]

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